Running as therapy

My mother said I could run before I could walk.

And I guess I’ve not stopped running since. Freud might say I’ve been running away from something all my life, and it’s maybe that I started running at such a young age to try and escape early child hood trauma, and maybe even today I still need to run to try to escape.

More recently I’ve started running longer and longer, looking for that escape and time for reflection. In all honesty I’ve not handled the challenges of the last few years well, made some bad choices and lost a lot of people who I cared about. Then one day I found myself sat in a therapist chair trying to make sense of it all, and it took me a while to work out that perhaps more running, and not more therapy sessions was what I needed.

Like therapy sessions, running longer became my release, when I could be who I wanted and how I wanted to be without the hassle of phones, emails and other peoples opinions. Whatever the weather, I was out there, pounding out another mile. Still running. And I was thankful for the bad weather days, when it rained so hard it hid any tears.

I kept running and enjoying the pain from my ‘running therapy’ sessions. Each session adding extra miles and soreness to my body, whilst giving me the feeling of a little bit of control back. It reminded me that I was still alive, and life wasn’t an A or B choice.

And with the extra therapy miles, came extra sleep. No longer was I staring at a ceiling at 3.30 am with my mind racing, wondering what to do. But I was actually starting to occasionally feel good, high on endorphins and starting to loosen the grip depression had on me. During the long runs out by myself, I’d pretty much dismantled everything about me and had put myself back together again. The dark places gave way to light bright morning runs and improved mood.

I signed up for my first Ultra with a friend, as part of my training to race over 100 miles (and why this blog is called The Long Run). I couldn’t wait for the day to come and I counted down every minute to the start. For the 10 plus hours it took me to complete the race I smiled constantly, I wasn’t running away anymore, but running to something greater, something I couldn’t even have conceived existed a year previously, a better tomorrow.

And with my sugar levels low, and exhaustion high, the finish to my first ultra was somewhat emotional. By starting traditional therapy I had gone looking for an answer that wasn’t there, but the 50 or so miles of the race had brought with it the much needed clarity. I’d left the agony of the previous 4 plus years of my life out there on the race course, and I was rewarded with laughter and tears (and an incredibly large medal!)

I still run, and run long. I still enjoy the miles by myself, although these days I don’t need it to rain nearly as much as it does. And the pain of training still feels good, and reminds me that I’m still alive and very much in control of creating a positive future.

I think it was Krissy Moehl, who said “there isn’t a problem a long run can’t fix, just sometimes the run has to be longer than others.”

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